We strive for security, long for stability and dream of a glowing and predictable future for ourselves and our posterity. But for most of us these hopes and desires are far from certain to be realized. Our world is filled with rapid and often perilous change.
We could easily fall victim to an accident, act of violence, debilitating disease or natural disaster. The turbulent winds of economic and social change threaten our financial stability. Wars and acts of terrorism threaten to endanger the fabric of society and make even more elusive the security we seek.
Uncertainty is a way of life.
Consider today's youth. A lack of confidence in the future is a major cause of anxiety among teenagers. Thousands are convinced the good life will evaporate before they're old enough to enjoy it. They crave assurance and purpose. Nihilism—the absence of confidence and hope in anything—is epidemic. The staggering number of teen suicides illustrates their disillusionment. Some vent their anger and frustration by setting up an alternative society of gangs.
But teens aren't the only ones anxious about their future. Adults turn to psychics and astrological readings in unprecedented numbers, attempting to peer into the murkiness of the future. Books about the future are best sellers. Millions of people long for reassurance that some kind of light shines at the end of the tunnel. King Solomon's observation that "man is greatly troubled by ignorance of the future" (Ecclesiastes 8:7, Revised English Bible) holds true today.
Why is our world so uncertain? Have we no alternative? Is nothing predictable? Must we live in ignorance of our future? Can we discover a source for information about where this world is headed?
Indeed we can, and it tells us a great deal about what lies ahead. We can also know the cause of our uncertainty and the amazing turn of events that could change it for the better.
Where can we find answers?
The answers have been waiting for us all along. They're in the pages of the Holy Bible.
The Bible is unique among all literature. Though penned by many writers from varied cultures over a span of 15 centuries, it is the masterpiece of a single author, the Creator of the universe.
For centuries Bible students have marveled that so many writers, from strikingly dissimilar backgrounds, could maintain the consistent message and purpose found in the pages of Scripture. No other compilation of writings from such varied authors could compare with the Bible's continuity and harmony.
This consistency gives the Bible unrivaled distinction among literary works. This constancy is one of the proofs of its divine inspiration. As the Bible itself powerfully proclaims about its origin: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God" (2 Timothy 3:16, emphasis added throughout).
Much of this remarkable book is prophetic. Its prophecies reveal crucial information about the future of mankind. When we realize that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, then we begin to realize the significance of its prophecies. They are reliable because God Himself inspired them.
What does the Creator tell us about Himself and the future? "I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done … Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it" (Isaiah 46:9-11). God not only claims to reveal the future, He has the power to bring to pass what He has foretold!
The apostle Peter advises us to pay attention to the words of the biblical prophets: "And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed…knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:19-21).
The Prophet of prophets
A prophet is one through whom God speaks—one appointed to reveal the will of God to His people. One of the greatest of these prophets was God's own Son, Jesus Christ: "God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds" (Hebrews 1:1-2).
People seldom think of Jesus Christ as a prophet, but a prophet He was (Luke 13:33; Luke 24:19; John 6:14). His message—"the gospel of the kingdom of God" (Mark 1:14)—is filled with prophecy. His message explains and clarifies the destiny of mankind, revealing the way God will accomplish His master plan.
The record of Jesus Christ's birth, life, ministry and death is one of history's most powerful confirmations of the reliability and accuracy of Bible prophecy.
Precise details about Jesus' birth, ministry and crucifixion were accurately foretold hundreds, even thousands, of years before He was born. Specific events and circumstances foretold centuries earlier came to pass exactly as the Hebrew prophets had predicted, providing compelling evidence of their credibility and substantiating the accuracy of their messages.
Could their words hold meaning for us today? Did you know those same prophets tell us what Jesus Christ has planned for the future—your future?
You probably already know that Jesus promised to return to earth. That promise is an excellent example of prophecy. He also promised to finish the work He began at His first coming. Throughout the Bible the life and mission of the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, are depicted as examples of His devotion to the welfare of people. Many prophecies yet to be fulfilled are directly related to the future work and mission of Jesus Christ.
A right perspective
Many people regard prophecy as mystical, strange and unreal, with no relevance to their lives. They have almost no understanding of what prophecy is all about. Others, having encountered grossly distorted interpretations of Bible prophecy, have grown skeptical and disillusioned.
However, when properly understood, the Bible speaks with a clear, consistent and reliable message that is just as appropriate for us as it was for the people of ancient Israel.
Whether you are unsure of the value of the Bible's prophecies or regard them with deep respect, this booklet is meant to help you accurately understand prophecy. We want you to see the true scope of prophecy—how it links mankind's past, present and future. A knowledge of prophecy can provide you with a balanced perspective revealed by the Creator.
God's promises: the foundation of prophecy
Prophecy is not merely a series of unrelated predictions randomly scattered throughout the Bible. It has a structure; it is set on a firm foundation. To understand the foundation, we must realize the overall purpose of the Bible, its themes and the threads of its stories.
One overall theme is that the Bible is the tale of two families. The first is the family of Adam, the human father of all mankind. The second is the family of Abraham, the father of those who are faithful to God (Romans 4:9-11). God regards people who become, in a spiritual sense, like faithful Abraham as His own personal family, His sons and daughters (2 Corinthians 6:18).
The Bible begins with the creation of the universe and a world fashioned to support Adam's, and then all humanity's, existence. The story of Scripture will not be complete until all of the descendants of Adam receive an eternal inheritance in refashioned heavens and earth or—if they unequivocally refuse God's way of loving others as themselves—eternal death in the final judgment (Revelation 20:14-15).
It is to Abraham and his descendants that God gave the promise of an eternal inheritance. Only members of the family of Adam whom God grafts into the family, or "seed," of Abraham (through the sacrificed Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth) may partake of that eternal inheritance (Galatians 3:29).
Between the creation of Adam and God's final judgment is the story of God's relationship with us, His creation. The Bible, in its account of Adam, explains the reason for our nature. It tells us how and why sin, evil and suffering entered the world and reveals God's solution to that problem. It reveals the purpose of our existence, explaining why God made human beings and the incredible future He has in store for us.
At the heart of God's plan for us are many amazing promises. In a greater sense, God offers us one magnificent promise, which He first expressed to Adam and Eve and amplifies and expands throughout the Bible. God promises He will make available everything we need to establish and maintain an eternal relationship with Him as His children—that our salvation will always be His greatest concern.
Read on to learn how prophecy fills in the details of God's wonderful plan for humanity. You will discover the reason people suffer and the lessons they should learn from it. You will see that God, who inspired prophecy, cares for people—that He has designed a logical and realistic master plan for solving the suffering and dilemmas that (as history well shows) we cannot resolve on our own.
You will also learn why the life, work and mission of Jesus, as the Messiah, was planned even "before time began" (2 Timothy 1:9)—and why His continuing efforts are crucial to the success of God's plan and purpose for our future.
Come with us on a journey to explore and understand Bible prophecy.